HMVC: an Introduction

This tutorial is an introduction to the Hierarchical Model View Controller(HMVC) pattern, and how it applies to web application development. For this tutorial, I will use examples provided from the CodeIgniter from Scratch series and demonstrate how HMVC can be a valuable modification to your development process. This introduction assumes you have an understanding of the Model View Controller (MVC) pattern.

What is HMVC?

HMVC is an evolution of the MVC pattern used for most web applications today. It came about as an answer to the salability problems apparent within applications which used MVC. The solution presented in the JavaWorld web site, July 2000, proposed that the standard Model, View, and Controller triad become layered into a “hierarchy of parent-child MCV layers“. The image below illustrates how this works:


Each triad functions independently from one another. A triad can request access to another triad via their controllers. Both of these points allow the application to be distributed over multiple locations, if needed. In addition, the layering of MVC triads allows for a more in depth and robust application development. This leads to several advantages which brings us to our next point.

Why should I use HMVC?

Key advantages to implementing the HMVC pattern in your development cycle:

  • Modularization: Reduction of dependencies between the disparate parts of the application.
  • Organization: Having a folder for each of the relevant triads makes for a lighter work load.
  • Reusability: By nature of the design it is easy to reuse nearly every piece of code.
  • Extendibility: Makes the application more extensible without sacrificing ease of maintenance.

These advantages will allow you to get M.O.R.E out of your application with less headaches.

Setting up HMVC in CodeIgniter

We will be viewing today’s examples in CodeIgniter. I will lead us though the steps needed to get CodeIgniter working with HMVC. Once we’re done with that, I’ll provide a couple of examples. Let’s begin!


To run web applications, you need a web server on your computer if you are not working remotely. Here are recommendations with links to installation instructions:

Step 1. Download and Install CodeIgniter

Go to and click the “Download CodeIgniter” link.

Extract the contents of the zip file to your web server’s document root.

Rename the “CodeIgniter_1.7.2” folder to “hmvcExample“.

Move the “hmvcExample/system/application” folder to “hmvcExample/application“. This is common practice with CodeIgniter. The purpose of doing this is to separate the application from the core of the framework. We should now have a directory that looks like the image below:



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